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Arnold & Porter hosted a mayoral debate — an invitation-only affair closed to the public — on June 29. And beyond a few fireworks offered by partner Stephen Porter, the senior member of the firm’s real estate practice, it’s arguable that it never really got going. The lightest moment came early, when moderator Mark Plotkin, a political commentator and analyst for radio station WTOP, asked candidates Adrian Fenty and Vincent Orange the name of Arnold & Porter’s managing partner. Neither knew it. (The answer: Richard Alexander.) Plotkin, who spoke before about 100 firm attorneys and clients, asked a variety of questions, which were answered semantically by most of the five major Democratic candidates — except for Fenty, who had an affinity for directness. The hourlong discussion’s best moment came when Porter complained that Fenty dodged his question. Porter had asked why Fenty has pledged never to raise taxes as mayor, when he supported an increase in the recordation tax as a D.C. council member. Fenty responded that he wouldn’t have to raise taxes as mayor because the city would have more than enough income — if dollars were managed better. Porter shook his head and raised his arm, appealing to the moderator for intervention. None came. Council Chairwoman Linda Cropp, at this point Fenty’s chief rival, said, “Things have improved, but there’s still a lot to be done,” and pointed to affordable housing and education as her two biggest concerns. When the quintet was asked what the city’s legal community could do better to help the District, Michael Brown, managing partner at lobby firm Alcalde & Fay, said the town’s considerable lobbying and legal skills must be wielded for it to attain statehood — a goal agreed upon by all the candidates. He also added, “D.C.’s judges on the Superior Court should be elected.” Marie Johns, the former president and CEO of Verizon D.C., spoke about AIDS and compared the city’s blight with that of a third-world country. In total, there was more agreement than disagreement, though the candidates, sitting inches apart, did not interact warmly. After 40 similar debates and with the primary election still more than two months away, that was to be expected.
Nathan Carlile can be contacted at [email protected].

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